feeder streams

Feeder Stream, Brodhead Creek, Pennsylvania


Trout Brook gives up its cool waters to the Beaver Kill just above the town of Peakville, New York (Figure 25). Numerous other small rivulets and brooks - Horse Brook, Russell Brook, and Horton Brook - also add their modest volumes of water to the main stem. In this way, much of the life in the river survives the killing heat of summer. While spring holes in the river itself also provide refuge from the often overly warm, low water of July and August, it is the small feeders that make the biggest difference to fish regarding their survival. Beginning high up in the surrounding mountains, nearly all brooks of the freestone variety are spring fed. Their water rises up to the surface under pressure where the aquifer exits from its underground strata. Feeders generally are crystal clear, cold, and quickly become oxygenated as they spill over their rock-filled beds. Their beds are shaded most of the day by a full tree canopy. 

These trout habitats serve several additional important functions for the main river. They are a repository for macroinvertebrates. In addition, trout from the main stem spawn in their gravel beds in the Fall and early winter months when water levels allow. Other fish life, such as minnow species provide additional food for foraging trout adventurous enough to wander up into their pools and riffles. Lastly, during high water times in the summer, when, for instance, thunder storms deluge the area, feeder streams contribute much needed nutrients in the form of detritus (i.e., dead vegetation) into the menu of the macroinvertebrates of the main river. 

When I struggle up these little streams, I am always struck by their peacefulness and that of the accompanying forest (re: The Alder Creek in: A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold). The bird songs seem more distinctive, their cawings and chirpings add to the mystery of these often-dark, shadowy places. Wildflowers and frogs, box turtles and the unexpected mink or other rarely seen mammal add to the "enchanted woods" aura of the feeder stream environment (Figures 26 and 27). It is also a joy to fish in them, given the proper equipment. These intimate settings present unique casting challenges as well as fly selection, but with some patience, these barriers can be overcome. It is remarkable how many fish there can be in any given pool. Each caught fish squirms and squiggles, sparkling in dappled half-light, illuminated by markings so vibrant that photographs or paintings of them fail miserably to capture their essence. Small flies are best, a #16 caddis or Quill Gordon will do. A pair of wets, #18 Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear and Lead Winged Coachman, on 6X leader twitched in the main surge of each run can be an exciting way to probe for fish, especially when two fish hit at once.  The result is often a broken leader. Feeders are neglected recreational resources; that is why I like them so much. I can be alone whenever I want. May feeder streams always exist for those who appreciate them.


Figure 25. Trout Brook (upper right), emptying into Beaver Kill, New York State.


Figure 26. Biscuit Brook. Feeder stream for the Neversink River, New York State.


Figure 27. Three feeder streams.

Horton Brook, Feeder Stream to Beaver Kill